5 Films about Extramarital Affairs

Everyone’s favorite topic, right? Recently, the website Ashley Madison, that encourages infidelity, was hacked. The group of hackers threatened to take down the site, lest they release all of the client information the site contains. They have already released some of the information they have obtained (a client’s name, home address, and list of fantasies), but who knows what the fate of the other supposed 37 million users is. Regardless of the ethics behind this controversial subject and hack, affairs happen all around us. This list is a few of the better filmic depictions of marital infidelity, and the guilty torment (or lack thereof) that comes along with it.

5) Match Point (2005), dir. by Woody Allen

Chris (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a former tennis pro, meets and falls for Nola, a beautiful American actress (played by Scarlett Johansson). She happens to be dating his friend Tom (Matthew Goode), but Chris does everything he can to be close to her. That includes dating Tom’s sister, Chloe (Emily Mortimer), who he ends up marrying. Chris and Nola begin their affair, which results in Nola leaving Tom. After leaving London to go back to the states and then returning once again, Chris and Nola continue to pick up their affair, though Chris is still married. Even more so, Chris becomes reluctant to end his new marital existence, and questions why he can’t have both. Nola transitions from being a fantasy that Tom so deeply craves to a realistic chore. The final quarter of the film is deeply tense, and toys with the notion of luck, deceit, and consequences.

4) American Beauty (1999), dir. by Sam Mendes

After experiencing a mid-life crisis, Lester (Kevin Spacey) begins to completely turn his life around. He starts speaking up about his opinions, exercising, and trying to find a way to reconnect with his distant wife (Annette Bening). He becomes utterly infatuated with his daughter’s best friend Angela (Mena Suvari), and his wife begins an affair with a real estate mogul. The core of the film is true disconnect with those around you, and with whatever makes you happy in life. It’s a heartbreaking film that at once shows you the seedy underbelly of suburbia, and also reminds you to not let life slip away from you.

3) Fatal Attraction (1987), dir. by Adrian Lyne

Though Fatal Attraction is more of a (dare I say it?) patriarchal cautionary tale, it’s still a fun movie that shows the negative consequences of infidelity. Happily married Dan (Michael Douglas) has a one-night fling with Alex (Glenn Close), which he immediately regrets and ends. Alex then reveals herself to be completely unstable, and begins relentlessly stalking him. It goes from mild “chance” meet ups to severe psychotic behavior (poor bunny rabbit), which—you guessed it—doesn’t end well. It may be slightly dated these days, but the apex of the film still carries quite a punch.

2) Earrings of Madam de… (1953), dir. by Max Ophüls

Though Earrings is an aesthetically beautiful film, its underlying heartache is palpable. Louise (Danielle Darrieux) is married to the wealthy general, André. After raking in a bit of debt for herself, she sells the earrings given to her from her husband as a wedding gift, as the earrings (and her marriage) don’t mean much to her. The earrings then go back to André, who buys them again to give to his lover, Lola (Lia Di Leo). After Lola also garners a considerable debt, she sells the earrings once again. A baron named Donati (Vittorio De Sica) meets and falls in love with Louise, and after developing an emotional affair he buys the earrings for her. Once meaningless, she now covets them. From there the tangled web of deceit and relationships is strained, ending in an intense, emotional conclusion.

1) The Graduate (1967), dir. by Mike Nichols

In this classic coming-of-age story, Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) moves home after graduating from college. As a means of escaping the endless badgering from everyone around him of what he wants to do with his life, he begins an affair with the married older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). In between dodging his parents and maintaining a consistent relationship at a hotel with Mrs. Robinson, he begins to fall for her daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross). After his affair with Mrs. Robinson eventually ends, it still haunts him as he becomes more invested in Elaine. It’s an unconventional love triangle that may get “solved,” though it remains strained, and never really feels finished.

Honorable Mentions: Little Children (2006), Brief Encounter (1945), Belle de Jour (1967), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Gone Girl (2014), The Apartment (1960), Unfaithful (2002).

Author: Catherine Haas

Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.

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